Jun 14, 2011
Falls are a major cause of injury for older people; they are the leading cause of injury-related hospital admissions in people aged 65 years and over.
It is generally accepted that falls are a natural part of getting older. However, researchers at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, strongly negate this and are working on a unique falls prevention project.
“Falling can often result in a serious loss of confidence and loss of independence due to injury, which is why as part of The Health Observatory program funded by The Hospital Research Foundation, we are focused on prevention,” said Associate Professor Renuka Visvanathan, Geriatrician at TQEH.
PhD student Dr Shailaja Nair, under the supervision of A/Prof Visvanathan, is looking at a particular condition known as Postprandial Hypotension (a drop in blood pressure after a meal) which has been linked to an increased risk of falling.
“Many people don’t know that blood pressure can fall after a meal! Also, despite it being known that there is a link between this condition and risk of falling, there has been no published research on how a drop in blood pressure after a meal affects the walking patterns of older people,” said Dr Nair.
With significant help from the Rotary Club of Kidman Park, a piece of equipment called a GaitRite has recently been purchased, which will allow important research into the link between Postprandial Hypotension and falling to take place.
“We think that this Postprandial Hypotension could actually be a key cause of many falls in older people- working this out may help us to prevent a lot of falls,” she said.
The GaitRite is essentially a mat hooked up to a computer, when walked on, can measure distance between a persons steps, how fast they are walking and how wide their steps are.
“This machine is absolutely crucial to the research project- we wouldn’t have been able to do it without it,” said Dr Nair.
The Rotary Club of Kidman Park raised an incredible $25,000, which covered almost half of the machine’s cost. They fundraised by selling books from their book mart and managing car parking at Crows AFL matches.
President of the club Dr Bob Hudson said his group were delighted to have been able to help purchase such a crucial piece of equipment.
“This research which can now be undertaken because of the GaitRite is obviously very important for the wellbeing of older people- ultimately, this research will increase understanding of what makes older people fall, and help to develop preventative measures. We are thrilled we were able to make a significant contribution,” said Dr Hudson.
We sincerely thank the Rotary Club of Kidman Park for their incredibly generous contribution. We look forward to keeping you updated on the findings of the research in the coming editions of ‘Research Horizons’.